Category Archives: Research Methods

Connecticut probate records

lazarus-hollister-cover-pageIn my youth I used to make trips to the Connecticut State Archives in Hartford, Connecticut, to access their great collection, particularly the microfilmed probates and deeds. More recently, I have had to settle for Charles William Manwaring’s book, A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records, so I am delighted that the Connecticut probate files are now available on Ancestry.com: “Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609–1999.” (Don’t ask me what the 1609 refers to!) Since Manwaring’s book only contains brief abstracts from the records, it is good to be able to compare them to the original files – particularly since Manwaring’s abstracts seem to have been made from the copy book versions, rather than the original files, which in some cases contain more than the books. Continue reading Connecticut probate records

A “wasted” correction

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In an earlier blog post about former ancestors, I noted some instances where my modern-day research turned ancestors into “former ancestors,” some quite recently. This one involves a correction I discovered several years ago; while valid, I should really have reviewed these charts more recently, for confirmation. Continue reading A “wasted” correction

An historic collaboration

archdiocese-and-nehgs-project-branding-square-format-croppedOn Tuesday, NEHGS announced the first fruits of an historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston, one where – over a period of years – Archdiocesan records will be digitized and made available on the NEHGS website, AmericanAncestors.org. In the fullness of time, this collaboration will preserve and make accessible unique records to tell the stories of some 10 million people from the earliest days of the Catholic community in Massachusetts through the twentieth century. These records are key because they often include events not captured in civil registrations. Whether because of a home birth or a conscious decision not to report an event to a civil authority, these documents might include the only written record for a birth or a death. Their importance and value cannot be overstated. Continue reading An historic collaboration

‘There was a poor man in London’

Alicia Crane WilliamsI came across an interesting family story while working on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Henry Lamprey of Hampton, New Hampshire, that claimed his wife received a dowry from her family equal to her weight in gold!

The story apparently first appeared in print in the 1893 History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire by Joseph Dow (p. 783). Dow may have been a descendant of Henry Lamprey through his daughter Elizabeth, who married Daniel Dow. His version reads: “A pretty story (of the truth of which there is little doubt) has been handed down for generation to generation, that this little wife received for her marriage dowry a scale, containing her weight (one hundred twelve pounds) in gold.” Continue reading ‘There was a poor man in London’

2016: the year in review concluded

At the beginning of 2017, Vita Brevis can boast 1,177,549 page views: while individual readers have surely read multiple articles on a given visit, that million+ reader count is still impressive!

vita_brevis_bannerVita Brevis reached its one-millionth page view on 7 July, some two-and-a-half years after the blog’s launch on 10 January 2014:

“And what do [its contributing authors] write about?

“We write about what interests us, as researchers, as professional genealogists, as editors, as archivists. Sometimes the topic is our own research interests; sometimes we offer tips from our experience as a beginning, an intermediate, or an expert researcher; and sometimes we describe an aspect of our work, here in Boston or elsewhere as part of an NEHGS education program. Continue reading 2016: the year in review concluded

Fireside chats, 2016

Alicia Crane WilliamsThis year’s holiday Open House at the NEHGS library on Saturday, December 10, included several Fireside Chats. In the morning Marie Daly and Judy Lucey discussed Irish genealogy.

In the afternoon Chris Child covered the different types of DNA testing – Y-chromosome, mitochondrial, and autosomal. This last is the “hot” fad right now; it’s the type you see on TV, such as “I thought all my ancestors were [fill in the blank], but…” I am no expert on the complexity of DNA inheritance, so it was interesting to learn that European (including the British Isles) DNA is greatly affected by thousands of years of migrating groups that have mixed up the pool to the point of making specific interpretations difficult. On the other hand, test results are accumulating to the point where surnames will be identifiable! Continue reading Fireside chats, 2016

Czech surnames

krejci-1-1024x819While working on a research problem in preparation for a consultation, I wanted to determine how common the surname Kucera was in the Czech Republic. A name that seems fairly unusual here in the United States is often as common as Smith back in the old country. I found a web site, Czech Surnames, that gave a great deal of information about the origins of different Czech surnames, but also had a listing of the top 20 most popular surnames in the country for the years 1937, 1964, and 1996. I discovered that Kucera, which means “curly,” was and is the ninth most common surname in the country. For the research problem in the consultation this was not necessarily good news, but it substantiated the above premise. Continue reading Czech surnames

Piece work

maria-tavano-deathI have developed a soft spot for two of my great-great-grandparents, Domenico Caldarelli and Maria Tavano. They were born in Italy, Domenico in Naples and Maria in Villa Santa Maria, Chieti. They emigrated to New York with their four children around 1890.

I had my first glimpse of Domenico in New York in the 1900 Federal Census, when he was listed as a prisoner in Sing Sing. Was this my Domenico? The prisoner was older than I thought Domenico should be. Why was he in Sing Sing? What happened to his family? Continue reading Piece work

Lucky clues

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My maternal grandparents with my mother.

On the face of it, my mother’s immediate family was Southern: her father was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and her mother in Baltimore, Maryland. Things quickly get complicated, though, as my grandfather’s mother and my grandmother’s father were both born in Ohio; it was their spouses’ respective families who had the Virginia and Maryland connections. A generation further back, and my great-great-grandfather William Boucher Jr. (1822–1899) is my most recent immigrant forebear, arriving from Mannheim in the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1845. It will not be surprising, perhaps, that some other nineteenth-century ancestors hailed from elsewhere in the United States, or that both of my maternal grandparents had a lot of New England ancestry. Continue reading Lucky clues